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Looking for meaning as a fifty-two-year-old

Updated on January 22, 2016

the writer at 75. Where did the beauty of youth go?

Looking for a meaningful life - upon reflection, it probably has been...
Looking for a meaningful life - upon reflection, it probably has been...

A Meaningful Life. Isn't that what we all want?

Welcome to Looking for Meaning as a fifty-two-year-old.

Some people keep diaries. I’ve tried, but after a few days, weeks at most, I give up on trying to find something worth recording. Instead, I’ve been a writer. All manner of writings have emanated from my pen, typewriter, and electronic keyboard over the years, some of which are really simply ‘diary-type’ recordings of how I felt at the time. Here is one I came across a moment ago. It was composed on 23rdh of April 1988. It is called: ‘Just for Something to Do.

Thought you might like to read it.

I became a grandfather at fifty-two.

Five days ago I turned fifty-two years of age. A few days before that, i.e. on the 13th April, I became a grandfather. I don’t feel old. I don’t even feel middle aged. Thought my eyes, and other parts of my body are tending, at long last, to say differently. But one part of me has changed quite drastically over the past decade. I seem to have lost a lot of my drive, my ambition.

The writer at 56

Hard to believe the changes in less than 20 years!
Hard to believe the changes in less than 20 years!

Fame and Recognition.

There was a time, and that just five or six years ago, when I used to sit here in this back room and plan the great things I intended to achieve. Mostly these things ran to ‘ego trips’ in fame and recognition – usually in the fields of Creative Writing or Public Speaking. Oh, and yes, I was also going to be a great philanthrophist. There were schemes to head up various charitable organizations. There were goal-settings for the sponsorships of ever-increasing numbers of fostered children through Foster Parents Plan of Australia. There was also the Trade Union Movement – even Party Politics! Yes, five years ago there was so much get-up-and-go.

Looking for meaning and a meaningful life as a fifty-two-year-old.

Yet despite all of that I was not happy. Constantly I sought for the reward of ‘Total Involvement and Oblivion’ in agreeable and ‘acceptable’ work. Vainly I strove to escape the here and now. Dreams, schemes, plans, activities, involvements, until there was no time left. It was as if I deliberately sought to escape from the present moment so I could wallow in the pleasures that might be. Like a man who is unwillingly set adrift in a small boat without oars, sail or engine upon a mighty swift-flowing river, I tried vainly to steer against the current. But the River of Life had me in its grip. My boat-personality/character was caught up, unable to do much, it seems, except to go with the current. I could steer to some extent. But only in the direction of the flow.

The writer at 41 - at MacQuarie Island.

Yep, I was into poetry and writing down there.
Yep, I was into poetry and writing down there.

Fame and Recognition. We assume these will solve so many of our problems.

How I resented it. How I chafed and fought against the inexorable undertow which would not let me have ‘my’ way. I tried, and tried and tried, and I tried again and again to change my lot. And I equated a lot (of my resentment) with my work- my paid employment- within the Australian Taxation Office, a job I’ve now held for over ten years. The job-application letters which were penned and sent; the interviews which were attended with anxious anticipation. None of it worked. It was as if a malicious overseer or lesser god was making sure I did not escape my karma of frustration, resentment and broken dreams.

The writer in his thirties

And the 'World was still my oyster."
And the 'World was still my oyster."

Looking for meaning as a fifty-two-year-old.

Then came the introduction to Vipassana Meditation and, because of my character, new dreams. But it seems that the 2,000 or so hours of ‘equanimous observation’ is eroding even these dreams and ambitions – and I don’t want to lose them!

As my ego wanes, melting under the penetrating shaft of ‘true observation’ there, too, go my imaginings of ‘doing great things.’ Yet these dreams I once regarded as the central piece of my existence. My reason for being, in fact. For I believed and still do – that I have a mission to bring something of great value (perhaps the greatest of all values) to the masses.

What an ego! What self-centeredness!

The writer at 18 - A meaningful life meant experiencing it.

You could say we expand into life willingly for the first half of it.  Then comes the integration and reconcilliation period.  And if we're so inclined, we teach what we have learned.
You could say we expand into life willingly for the first half of it. Then comes the integration and reconcilliation period. And if we're so inclined, we teach what we have learned.

Bringing the truth within to as many as possible.

Yes, five days ago I turned fifty-two. Five-sevenths or five-eigthts or thereabouts of my life lies behind me. Yet still the dreams persist. Yet those dreams are somewhat different now. The ambitious clutching out for fame is still extant. Maybe my dreams have to be that way. For without them I feel I will not be able to fulfill my destiny and ‘personal wish’ of bringing The Truth Within to as many as possible

Will fame and recognition bring it?

Howszat! Well, I’m seventy-five now and I can still indentify quite strongly with the ego-me who wrote that piece twenty-three years ago. It seems we change but slowly. Hope you got something out of the read. Yes, looking for meaning and a meaningful life... Are you still looking?...


Submit a Comment

  • Mr. Happy profile image

    Mr. Happy 

    7 years ago from Toronto, Canada

    Mr. Tom, this piece of writing is price-less. It is simply superb!

    You have said so much in such a little space - a true sign of wizdom, in my opinion.

    I looked at two quotes and wondered how I can add them together. The first is:

    "I used to sit here in this back room and plan the great things I intended to achieve. Mostly these things ran to ‘ego trips’ in fame and recognition"

    And the second is about your:

    ‘personal wish’ of bringing The Truth Within to as many as possible - is this second quote coming out of the first or is the first coming out of the second? Or how do they tie-in? Why do you feel that you want to bring "The Truth Within to as many people as possible"?

    Just a few questions after reading your blog. Many thanks, cheers!

  • Beata Stasak profile image

    Beata Stasak 

    7 years ago from Western Australia

    It is important to come back to the young you....and find out that you haven't change so much after all, inside is still the same...thank you for your beautiful story:)

  • WillStarr profile image


    7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    The saving grace as we age is our intellect.

    What on Earth will happen to Paris Hilton?

  • Paradise7 profile image


    7 years ago from Upstate New York

    This hub brought to mind a quote from one of the Harry Potter books, spoken by wise old Dumbledore:

    "Don't dwell in dreams and forget to live."

    I'm afraid I do that too, and have done for quite a bit of my life, while going about the ordinary business of living. I know I missed a lot that way. So many people have said, "Earth to Joyce", or something like that, while I've been off daydreaming..of doing great things.

    I enjoy my daydreams very much. Come to think of it, I enjoy most things very much, and those things I don't, I can always escape by...dreaming...

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    Dear Tom

    I read this and really enjoyed. I believe I have a meaningful life and yet I find so much meaning in the world around me both in nature and with the people I meet all the time and the strangers I meet all over the place. Take care!!!Beryl


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